Yesterday afternoon a friend dropped his computer by so I could make it go a bit faster which I initially thought must just be some application using up a ton of resources or something. The issue ended up being that the computer was an older PowerPC G4 running Mac OSX 10.3 that didn’t have a lot of RAM and hadn’t been updated in a long time. I happened to have PC133 RAM to stick in it so I added 512MB of RAM and then attempted to begin the software updates which requested his administrator password which I did not have. Turns out that he didn’t have the password either so below are directions on reseting the administrator password on a Mac running OSX. The process take a little while as you are required to boot into single user mode, go back through setup, modify the admin, and then delete the temporary admin account.

Reset Mac OSX Administrator Password Without Install CD:

  1. Boot Into Single User Mode: First you will need to boot into single user mode which can be done by restarting the computer and holding the “apple key” + “s” after you hear the boot tone. Make sure to continue holding the key combination until you see something similar to the below screen which indicates you are in single user mode.

    Mac OSX Boot Into Single User Mode

    Be patient as it will load the apple boot screen and then display the single user mode screen above. If you need more information on single user mode click here.

  2. Mount Root Partition: Now mount the root partition by issuing the below syntax from the prompt displayed in the screen above.
    localhost:/ root# mount -uw /
    

    The below image also displays mounting the root partition from single user mode.

    Mac OSX: Mount Root Partition From Single User Mode

  3. Remove AppleSetupDone File: Now issue the “rm” command as displayed below to remove the .AppleSetupDone file which will allow you to go back through setup after rebooting.
    localhost:/ root# rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
    

    This is also shown in the image below and as you can see there is no confirmation that the file has been removed.

    Max OSX: Remove .AppleSetupDone File

  4. Shutdown Computer: Now issue the below also from the single user mode command line interface to shutdown the computer. The below command tells the computer to halt immediately or shutdown immediately.
    localhost:/ root# shutdown -h now
    
  5. Power On Computer: Click the power button on your Mac to power it on. When the computer powers on you will be taken to the Mac OSX installation welcome screen as shown below.

    Mac OSX Installation Welcome Screen

  6. Navigate Installation Screens: Answer all of the questions on each installation screen to complete the addition of the new administrator account. You will be required to navigate through numerous screens including Welcome, Personalize Your Settings, Your Apple ID, Registration Information, A Few More Questions, Thank You, Create Your Account, Get Internet Ready, How Do You Connect, Your Local Area Network, Get .MAC, Now Your Ready To Connect, Select Time Zone, and Thank You. Please note on the below screen (Your Account) you will not be able to use the exact same username because the old username still exists on the computer.

    Mac OSX: Create Your Account

    After navigating through all of the new installation screens you will be logged in. Now we need to follow the directions below to modify the password of the old account and then delete the new account we just created.

  7. Modify Old User Password: Open a Terminal window from the Finder menu underneath Applications >> Utilities. Type the below syntax to become the root user. After typing the below you will be asked for a password which will be the password of the user you created in the previous installation steps.
    Mac OSX Become Root User:

    sudo su -
    

    Mac OSX Modify Old Users Password:

    passwd oldusername
    

    Above you should use the username of the previous user (can be found by “ls /Users” from terminal prompt) and then type in a password for the old user so you can login. After modifying the old users password you can close the Terminal window.

  8. Login As Old User: Now login as the old user by clicking on the Apple Icon in the top menu and selecting the Log Out option from the drop down menu. After logging off you should see two usernames from the login screen so make sure to select the new user.
  9. Delete Temp User Account: After logging in as the old user you have verified that you have successfully reset the password so you can delete the temporary user account by selecting the Apple Menu again and this time selecting System Preferences from the drop down menu as shown below.

    Mac OSX: Apple Menu - System Preferences

    Once System Preferences is open select the Accounts underneath the System sub menu as shown below.

    Mac OSX: System Preferences - Accounts

    From the accounts window shown below you can highlight the old account and click the “-” button below the list of accounts to delete it.

    Mac OSX: Accounts Admin

  10. Reboot: Now reboot the computer and verify that there is only one account which is the old account you wanted to login to begin with.

Your password has been reset on the initial Administrator account and you can now issue upgrades, etc. on Mac OSX.


List Price: $93.99 USD
New From: $59.95 USD In Stock
Used from: $23.29 USD In Stock

Mac OS X for Unix Geeks (Leopard) (Paperback)

By (author): Ernest E. Rothman, Brian Jepson, Rich Rosen


List Price: $34.99 USD
New From: $14.61 USD In Stock
Used from: $0.01 USD In Stock

DeliciousStumbleUponDiggTwitterFacebookRedditLinkedInEmail
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
29 Responses to “Mac OSX: Reset Administrator Password Without The Install CD”
  1. steve says:

    When I get to the step after typing in (sudo su -) to make myself the root user, it asks for my password but the terminal window will not let me type in my password. It just sticks and no keys will operate other tham “return” or “enter”. Do you know what my problem is or is it a glitch in my system?….I have no idea.

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello steve,

    Even though the password text does not display have you tried typing in the entire password and then clicking enter? It may just be that you cannot see the password which is by design.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  2. Felipe says:

    I read in other blogs people saying that after delete AppleSetupDone file the computer does not starts anymore. Is this process safe? Are those comments true? Im afraid of doing it.

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Felipe,

    We would not have written the article if we had not used this process. We cannot guarantee you won’t have other problems however the steps in the article worked without issue for us.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  3. Dean says:

    Hi Alex,

    After resetting the password for the older user account and logging on, will everything be the same as it was before or will everything be set back to default (without all of the files and applications that I have placed onto there)? I ask this because I was no longer able to log on to my (Administrator) account and cannot access any of my files such as music and other documents because I had encrypted them via FileVault. After modifying the Adm. account, will I still be able to access my FileVault encrypted files or will there be some kind of sharing permission problems. It may sound like a silly question but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    Regardless, this is very helpful information and I thank you for your time in posting it.

    Dean

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Dean,

    Not a silly question at all. I cannot say 100% about FileVault because I have not used it in a situation directly reseting the admin password on a Mac running OSX. I do know that the only things that should change are items configured during the password reset. I would imagine that you will not have any issues however I would recommend backing anything up before proceeding and if you have to have these files and are not absolutely confident in the process I would suggest taking it to a certified Apple technician.

    Hope that helps. Sorry I cannot guarantee the encrypted files in FileVault. Once you do complete the process and can verify one way or the other please share in the comments so anyone else with the same issue can benefit from the data.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  4. John Macrae says:

    Thanks for the very useful article. I have a problem though.

    I was trying to recover my wife’s admin password for her so I omitted the early steps and started by enabling root from a terminal window. I then supplied a new password as requested. When I entered this password after logging out and choosing my wife’s user name I got a message saying “You are unable to log in to the user account (her user name) at this time.”

    I’ve tried this several times entering different passwords and always with the same result. Have I gone wrong somewhere?

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello John,

    If you are following the directions in the article everything should work fine. I am sure you are but make sure that you are typing all lowercase or capital letters where necessary, etc.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  5. Joshua says:

    Hi I was trying to reset my mom’s macbook pro. And she had a lot of stuff on there like quickbooks and so on. So when I got to the part Mac OSX Modify Old Users Password:

    passwd oldusername
    It said it was invalid. What should I do? I lost all of my mom’s work stuff! Its on the hard drive. I can actually see it. But I can’t access it cause it says that I have insufficient data for the account.

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Joshua,

    The steps above are how I have changed the password on various accounts on numerous computers running OSX. Are you sure you are typing the username correctly including making sure of the case of various letters in the username (A versus a)? It should work without issue on any username on the computer as long as it is typed in properly. If this doesn’t work there must be another issue and I would suggest taking it to a qualified Apple technician to make sure there is no data loss.

    Hope that helps.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  6. David says:

    Cool, this worked fine for me. I just picked up a used Mac G4 from a thrift store, I wasn’t really worried about losing data…

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello David,

    Great to hear. Thanks for taking the time to leave feedback.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  7. Sheldon says:

    Please help, I tried this method and I can’t get past the welcome wizard. After putting in all my info it prompts me to create a new account. I input the user name and password I want and try to continue, the spinning gear comes up along with “creating your account..” next to it. The gear stops spinning and the whole wizard crashes and sends me back to the very beginning (where you select a language). Please help :(

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Sheldon,

    Sounds like a more complex issue than we would be able to assist with unless we had access to the computer to troubleshoot ourselves. I would investigate a corrupt partition or issues with the HDD.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  8. Oliver says:

    will this delete any accounts, files, or settings??

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Oliver,

    Please read through the comments as this question has been addressed numerous times.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  9. Jose says:

    I have a used iBook with limited access. I’ve tried above and can’t make it to the text screen. The software package is 10.5.2. What am I doing wrong.

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Jose,

    You should be able to get into single user mode by holding down the apple key plus the s key at the same time as noted in the instructions. If you are unable to do this it sounds as if there may be another issue.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

    Jose Reply:

    I believe the system has the new Firmware Password protect that comes with 10X. Mac started doing this to make it harder to hack and change admin passwords without the start up disk. It disables the C, and S keys. Plus more if you want to. I guess I need to get a start up disk. Where do I find one?

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Jose,

    Not sure. The macbook I was using was running 10.X as well so not sure that is a limitation regarding the apple key but then again I couldn’t say one way or the other. I rarely use Mac’s so I am also not sure where to get a startup disk.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  10. Brandy says:

    I am getting to part 3 then it says there is no such file or directory and now my computer will not reboot! i am freaking out

    [Reply]

    Brandy Reply:

    by the way i have tried typing this step in every way possible. is there anyway i can just undo what i have already done?

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Brandy,

    Sorry to hear you are having issues with this. What is the specific error you receive when typing the command in step 3? Are you sure you are booted into single user mode?

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  11. Brandy says:

    no such file or directory

    i think i did. i turned the computer off and then hit command s at the chime like instructed.

    i am so nervous i messed up my computer :/ or lost all my programs. do you think this is fixable.

    thanks so much much trying to help. hope you can solve this with me.

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello Brandy,

    The instructions in the article are what resolved the issue for me. It sounds as if you may have a hard drive issue or similar at this point and I would suggest taking your computer to an authorized MAC repair shop at this point without trying anything else so you can guarantee that you don’t lose any data.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  12. oggy says:

    Your instructions worked for me up to the step were I select “Where will you use your computer…” and “What best describes what you will do..”. I made my selections, clicked on Continue, and then nothing further happens. :( I can “Go Back”, and make other changes, but it always stalls after the same two selections are made.

    [Reply]

    alex Reply:

    Hello oggy,

    It has been so long since I wrote this article I went back to look for the option you are having an issue with and don’t see it. I would suggest taking your computer to a Apple certified professional for assistance.

    Thanks.
    alex

    [Reply]

  13. Charlie 4 UXxx says:

    My apple laptop has been lent to me by a Calderdale Council worker and there are loads of limitations. The internet has been set as a ‘read only’ programme, meaning that i cant watch videos or download music or log into my facebook or twitter. To change it to be able to ‘read and write’ I need an administrator password but i dont know it!!!
    GRRRRR!!!!
    I want 2 change the password but i havnt got a cd thingy that i need to do it! Can u help me?
    Xxx

    [Reply]

  14.  
Leave a Reply

*Type the letter/number combination in the abvoe field before clicking submit.

*